For many couples, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned wedding planning upside down. Whether you’ve decided to postpone your Jewish wedding, are moving forward with a Zoom wedding or are still thinking it over, we’ve collected some helpful advice and ideas for moving forward.
IF YOUR WEDDING IS POSTPONED
Celebrate your original wedding date.
When Hannah and Rob’s wedding date was pushed back, they still wanted to do something special to celebrate their original wedding date. “I knew I needed to wake up that morning and have a plan for happiness,” Hannah says. They decided to enjoy a picnic at a special spot that was meaningful to them. They felt it was best to keep busy that day and were grateful for the love they received through texts and calls from family and friends who were thinking of them.
Change your ketubah… or not.
Many couples postponing their wedding may have already ordered a ketubah, a Jewish marriage contract, that includes their original wedding date. Some ketubah artists are offering free reprints. 18Doors’ Rabbi Malka Packer-Monroe says that a couple she’s working with plans to honor both their old and new date and have them both incorporated on their ketubah.
Focus on each other.
Give yourself a much-needed break from wedding planning and focus on your relationship. Our Love & Marriage and Couples & Conversation series (which have all gone virtual) are a great way to create a vision for your future lives together and connect with other interfaith couples. You can keep an eye out for future offerings here.
IF YOUR WEDDING IS STILL ON
Keep your guests in the loop.
For interfaith couples, it’s especially important that your guests understand the religious elements to the ceremony that they may not be familiar with. We have two new features on our website to help couples create an inclusive wedding program for their guests. Our ready-to-use wedding programs are free and available to download here. There are both traditional and modern text options to choose from. Additionally, we have a wedding program language builder for those who want to design their own but need help coming up with the right language. If your guests are joining virtually, email the program beforehand as an attachment.
Get family and friends involved.
Hosting a small ceremony but still want to have your friends and family play a meaningful role on your big day? Atlanta-based couple Jenna and Elliot found a way. They used a website called tribute.co and invited family and friends to submit a short video sending well-wishes that they watched after the ceremony.
Watching videos from your guests after your ceremony or simply enjoying a cocktail in the quiet of your home is a nice way to incorporate a yichud into the day, which is the Jewish tradition of having alone time as a couple after the ceremony.
Involve the grandparents (or other extended relatives).
While Jenna and Elliot didn’t have their grandparents present, they included them in their ceremony virtually. They had a video of their family, including their grandparents, saying the seven blessings which was shared during the ceremony.
Many interfaith couples choose to write their own version of the seven blessings, and here are some ideas for getting started.
Go al fresco!
Jenna and Elliot had a special dinner catered to enjoy outside with their immediate family after the ceremony. They also had a car parade planned so they could wave (and pass out cake) to their friends from a distance.
Wondering if their wedding pictures would look awkward with their family standing six feet apart, Jenna created a poster that says “6 ft full of love”! They also ordered custom mazel tov masks through Etsy for their eight guests to wear during the ceremony.
Make it fun for your guests.
In the email invite Jenna and Elliot sent to their guests who would be watching their ceremony virtually, they encouraged them to get dressed up, too. “We wanted to encourage them to sit outside, pour a drink and make it a special day,” Jenna says. They even sent along their signature drink recommendations and asked friends to send in pictures of them watching virtually.
IF YOU’RE STILL THINKING IT OVER
What about kids?
Many couples considering postponing their wedding to 2021 are wondering how it may affect their future plans to have children. “Family planning is a conversation you should absolutely have with each other,” Rabbi Packer-Monroe says. “Some couples may be comfortable delaying their plans to start a family until after their wedding ceremony while others may decide that they don’t mind trying to conceive before marriage. And some may decide to elope, host a Zoom wedding or have a simple ceremony and stick with their original timeline.”
Manage family dynamics.
Family dynamics when planning a wedding are often complicated but may be even more so now. Bride-to-be Ali says, “My parents and I tended to butt heads a lot throughout the whole original wedding planning process. My mom has always had grand, over-the-top visions about my wedding, while Andrew and I are more low-key kind of people.” What helped get everyone on the same page? Not surprising, communication: “Sitting down, communicating with each other and communicating with our families was so important to find a solution that allowed everyone to be comfortable while trying to fulfill everyone’s expectations to the best of our abilities.” Ultimately, a compromise was reached. Ali’s mom got to pick the venue, and Ali and Andrew chose the size of the guest list. Here are some more strategies that may help. Most of all, listen to each other and decide what is most important to you both.
MOVING FORWARD WITH AN IN-PERSON CEREMONY? WHAT DOES JUDAISM SAY?
When planning your in-person ceremony, it’s important to consider the Jewish values of pikuah nefesh (saving a life) and kol yisrael arevim zeh l’zeh (we are all responsible for one another). As an audacious host, you are charged to be sure that your guests are cared for and taken care of.
Be sure to follow health and safety guidelines when deciding who will be invited and what protocols to follow for guests who attend your wedding in person. The CDC has guidelines of how many people should be gathering in person.
Questions to consider: Will each guest be provided with a mask? Will the officiant or couple wear masks? When signing the ketubah, will you have a separate pen for each witness and hand sanitizer ready for people to sanitize their hands before and after signing?
Guiding Jewish values and teachings:
- Pikuah nefesh/ saving a life: Safety of both staff and congregants, as well as the general public health.
- Equity: We strive for fair access to our offerings for all community members.
- Do not put a stumbling block before the blind: We recognize our hunger to be together and are mindful of crafting environments that support safe individual behaviors. If we find that when we gather, individuals are unable to adhere to safety guidelines, we will return to virtual gatherings, removing the proverbial stumbling block.
- Kol Yisrael arevim zeh l’zeh: We are all responsible for one another.